Today’s impatient audiences demand pictures—we want high-quality, high-resolution photos, infographics, charts and screenshots–to help tell a story. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) deliver as many results from images as from text. If you’re upgrading your website’s SEO value but ignoring the images on your site, you could be missing out on an important source of organic traffic.
It’s time to start adding alt tags to your images
Also called “alt text” and “alt descriptions,” alt tags are the written copy that appear in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load. This text helps screen-reading tools describe images to visually impaired readers and allows search engines to better crawl and rank your website. Optimizing image alt tags creates a better user experience for your visitors.
Be accurate, be descriptive
A good rule of thumb: Think about what someone would see if he/she pulled up a page and couldn’t see the actual image for whatever reason—just the alt tag descriptor. Let’s say we’re looking at a photo of Steph Curry shooting a 3-pointer in an overtime win against the Boston Celtics. A good alt tag: Oakland Warriors’ Steph Curry scores a 3-pointer in overtime to beat the Celtics. Think of this as a little formula.
Here are some best practices for writing effective alt tags
- Be specific. Use both the image subject and the article context as guides.
- Keep alt tags within 125 characters. We’re all used to character limits these days, so keep it brief and relevant. Screen-reading tools stop reading alt tags at 125 characters, cutting off long-winded alt descriptions.
- Forget about starting alt tags with “Picture of” or “Image of “.Don’t use up your character limit on these unnecessary descriptors. Screen-reading tools will already have identified the object as an image from the source code.
- Use your keywords sparingly.Include your article’s target keyword or keyword phrase if it’s easily included in your alt tags. Consider semantic keywords, or just the most important terms. Google is smart and understands semantics. If we go back to our Steph Curry model, we would likely use “curry 3-pointer” in our alt tag because the article is going to be about how this shot was critical to the Warriors’ win.
- Don’t cram your keyword into every single image’s alt tag.If your blog contains a series of images within the blog, include your keyword in at least one of those images.
How to add alt tags to your images
It varies by platform, but in WordPress, open Media, click on an imageand it will bring up a window where you can create/edit each alt tag. I find it handy to open two screens—one for the Media file and one for the article associated with each image because it provides the context that will influence the alt tag.
Could you use some help identifying alt tags for your website? Give me a call!